Banner Caption: Jake Fitzpatrick, Trustee, receives blessing from Reverend Grandmother Agnes Pilgrim, Confederated Tribes of Siletz, marking the Opening Celebration of the “Condors of the Columbia” exhibit at Oregon Zoo, 2014.
During 2003-2005, The Bridges Foundation provided $30,000 to assist with building the Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, helping Oregon Zoo complete its capital campaign to raise $2 million.
The California condor received first notoriety from observations made by Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark who documented this enormous bird during their expedition commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, 1804-1806.
“Here the [Columbia] river widens to about one mile with a large sand bar in the middle, a great [rock] both in and out of the water, large stones or rocks are also promiscuously scattered about in the river. This day we saw some few of the large Buzzard,” (October 30, 1805), later adding "beautiful buzzard of the Columbia." (January 3, 1806).
Adapted from the Journals of Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804-1806
Stretching 10 feet from wingtip to wingtip, the California condor are the largest land birds in North America which can soar up to 15,000 feet. Historically, the condors ranged along both North American coasts, from British Columbia to Baja California, with some populations as far east as Florida and New York.
By 1967 the California condor was listed as “endangered” by the federal government. By 1982 only 23 condors survived world-wide. By 1987 the last wild California condor was taken into captivity.
The first successful breeding occurred at San Diego Zoo in 1988 and by 1992, two captive-bred condors were reintroduced back into the wild. In 2001 the Oregon Zoo joined the Recovery Program as the fourth captive breeding partner, augmenting work done at San Diego Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo and World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho.
After nearly a century, in 2003, condors returned to Oregon when six breeding pairs were brought to the 52-acre Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation in Clackamas County. Since then more than 30 Oregon Zoo-reared birds have moved onto field pens with most released into wild areas in California and Arizona.
In 2014 Oregon Zoo opened a new public display exhibit, "Condors of the Columbia," which houses adult birds that cannot be released to the wild.
The exhibit allows zoo visitors the opportunity to observe this endangered species and learn more about the survival challenges they face.
As of 2016 the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service notes global population of the California condor is approaching 410 birds. Active release sites are in California, Arizona and Baja, Mexico. More recently U. S. Fish & Wildlife Services are working with the Yurok Tribe of Northern California to assess the possibility of releasing California condor in the coastal area spanning northern California and southern Oregon.
Today lead poisoning poses the greatest threat to the California condor. In 2013 California passed Assembly Bill 711 requiring the use of non-lead ammunition for hunting in the California condor range.